Going public in Bulgaria

April 9th, 2012

The clean sweep we’ve been praying for…coming soon

The director of the Bulgarian Child Protection Agency recently met with the new Minister of Health who is directly responsible for the baby orphanages in Bulgaria.  She is a young and very determined lady and started acting immediately. The CPA’s director himself is an orphan and spent most of the first part of his life in orphanages and institutions, so he cares a lot.  They organized a sudden check up in Pleven.  Groups from both the MOH and the CPA went to Pleven last Friday.

They went through all the floors and visited every corner of the building.

Then they came out in all prime time news, on all national TV channels and radio stations.

The Minister of Health said that she witnessed conditions that shouldn’t exist in any 21st century European country.   “The situation is appalling.  This is inhumane,” she commented.

At the end of her report it was announced that an investigation was starting immediately and would most probably be finished by the end of April.

The response of the orphanage management was to disagree that the children were malnourished or that the building did not meet hygiene standards.  They stated that the disabilities of the children, and not malnutrition, were to blame for their small stature and low weight.

But Katie, as the first malnourished child from Pleven to come into a family and be loved and fed properly, is telling the truth without saying a word.


The following are hastily-edited translations of some of the news articles in major newspapers in Bulgaria.  After reading it, please click here to visit Shelley Bedford’s blog and find out how you can help bring about the exciting boots-on-the-ground changes that are coming to the children in Katie’s former orphanage.  All the efforts to help Pleven will require a WIDE base of support, so PLEASE pass the word along!  Thank you so much!


Excerpts from yesterday’s newspaper article


(on the photo at the left bottom, unidentified child from the sixth floor; on the photo at the top right, Veronica now; on the photo at the bottom right, Veronica before)

18 children died over a year and a half

Babies and young children are being left hungry for days, lie in urine without having their diapers changed for twenty-four hours, due to which most of them are severely ill.  Over a year and a half, 18 children have died, as evidenced by a Report of the CPA. This provoked an inspection by the Minister of Health Dessislava Atanassova.  Yesterday she commented that she left there crying.
At the moment, 154 children live in the institution. After the inspection, Ms. Atanassova found out that, obviously, the personnel had known about her visit, as the children were all dressed up nicely, the sheets were changed and the toys were new.  The stench of urine, however, made a huge impression.

“While I walked through the rooms and watched the children, I cried. After that, I got mad and was greatly upset that they were doing wrong things,” the health minister said. She made a hint that probably serious financial misuses had been done in the institution, as any accountability was lacking.


4 kilograms and 850 grams. That’s how much the 9 year old Veronica weighed on November 14, 2011. That was her last day in Home For Medical and Social Care for Children in Pleven which terrified the health minister and CPA. She couldn’t pull up to a sitting or standing position and only was lying down. Today, 5 months later, in the USA, in Pennsylvania, she is already weighing 12 kilograms and has a chance for life.

This can clearly be seen from two photographs. The first was taken in the home for medical and social care last year, and the second is in the home of her new American family.

“I think that the photos speak for themselves enough and the words are not needed. The difference is striking and clearly shows what it means for a child to be raised in an institution,” declared Antonia Vladimirova, Director of Dreams Foundation, which facilitates international adoptions. She personally was helping the family Joe and Susanna Musser to adopt the Bulgarian orphan who has Down syndrome.

The Chance

The chance for a new life for Veronica came last November. After [three] months of adoption procedure, Susanna arrived in Pleven to pick her up.  [Three months before,] the American was in shock at the look of the child in real life and by the sight of the other children sharing the same ward with her future daughter on the sixth floor, where the orphans with the severest diseases are placed. Veronica was taken to Tokuda Hospital to be stabilized for two days…they took off by a plane to the USA…from the airport…she was placed in the Children’s [Hospital] in Philadelphia.

Thorough tests were done and they established that the child was with severe anemia due to the malnutrition, as well as advanced osteoporosis, and bones that had been broken in the past, together with lack of Vitamin D.  All this together with severe mental and physical lagging behind.

After only 4 months Veronica is already different.

So that you can imagine the difference, I will tell you that in Bulgaria she couldn’t sit up [properly]. She didn’t talk, only cried or, more correctly, was moaning. Now you can see her at the picture that she sits up. Soon she will be up besides a walker. She is still with a feeding tube but she eats normal food and very recently she said her first word “mamma.” All this after only 4 months, Vladimirova tells further. Now the child lives in Pennsylvania. Her adoptive parents have ten more children, the last of whom is with Down syndrome…she inspired them to adopt such a child. The mother is a homemaker and has entirely devoted herself to care for her children.


After the admittance of Veronica in Tokuda, from the hospital they were so shocked that they decided to visit the orphanage in Pleven. The specialists chose another 8 children to be admitted in the hospital.

“We found out that the children need attention and decided that we would go and see them. We coordinated the idea with the CPA and went,” Prof. Marusia Lilova, Chief of the Pediatric Clinic at Tokuda Hospital, said for the Telegraph. Then several children were taken for treatment to Tokuda. To a question whether it was established that the children were malnourished, Prof. Lilova stated that she didn’t want to comment.

The rest

154 children totally are being raised in the orphanage in Pleven. 98 of them are with severe disabilities and most of them don’t move from their cribs. For now, only [18] of the children will have Veronica’s chance.  At the moment, adoption procedures for them are pending.

Excerpts from today’s article

(Photos: Top: at 11 years old Vesselina looks like a 3 month old baby; the teenager Plamenka looks like an infant
Bottom:  Veronica 6 months ago and now as Katie Musser)

“Holocaust”  That is how the chief of Dreams Foundation, Antonia Vladimirova, summarizes the care for the abandoned sick children in Bulgaria. And “Auschwitz” is the name she has given to the Home for Medical and Social Care for Children (HMSCC) in Pleven. On Friday, the institution entered the media with a label “Mogilino-2” after the health minister Dessisslava Atanassova visited it suddenly and 16 year old children weighing 9 kilograms and eating from bottles met her.

Boriss Veltchev starts dealing with the child skeletons in Pleven

Prosecutors in Mogilino-2

Malnutrition, osteoporosis and broken bones shock the Tokuda doctors

For Antonia Vladimirova, the Pleven Auschwitz turned into her cause on August 15, 2011. Then the head of the Dreams Foundation went into the orphanage as a lawful representative of the Americans Joseph and Susanna Musser, who wanted to adopt the 9 year old Veronica. The little girl was on the 6th floor, where actually the severest cases are placed. From the very door, the stench that hit us was unbearable, Vladimirova recalls.

Stink of faeces, urine, acetone and pus

In the rooms of the children, the windows are not opened. The little ones [cribs] are stuffed 8 in a [room] 4 meters by 3 meters. They are not showered, the diapers are soaked and they lie in their vomit. The children are prisoners in their cribs. They move only when their diapers are changed once each 24 hours, Antonia adds. From the orphanage they explained to her that this happens once a day as the diapers are expensive and they can’t afford to change the children more often. They pick up the child under the armpit, lift him/her in the air, and throw him/her on the board for change of the diapers. Several lightning, rough movements follow, without any cleaning or treatment of the rashes and the wounds from the soaked diapers. The child again is lifted in the same way and thrown in the crib, Antonia continues her terrifying story.

Antonia, however, is shocked with something else–the feeding of the children. The little ones receive

a beer bottle with a nipple on the top,

with an opening of 1 cm.  And as they are in lying position, without being set upright at least a little, they receive the nipple and start choking and the liquid pours down, explains Vladimirova. The children who can feed themselves, receive a mess-tin of soup with crumbled bread mixed with a spoon of [broth?] without meat.  The children are fed [in a matter of seconds] and then everything is taken away, goes on Antonia.

Thanks to the Musser family, Veronica is saved from Auschwitz. Today she lives in Pennsylvania and her name is Katerina Hope Musser. After being picked up from the orphanage, the 9 year old miss went to the capital hospital Tokuda, and the doctors there slipped into a shock at the little one’s weight of 4,850 kg.  5 months later Veronica, already Katerina Hope, is 12 kg.

From August till now, 18 more children from the ill-famous orphanage in Pleven are at different stages of adoption procedure by families from the USA. Two of them are the 11 year old Vesselina (weight at the moment 5,650 kg and height 76 cm), and almost 16 year old Plamenka (weight 8,600 kg and height 88 cm) who eats from a bottle. Both of them, as well as 6 other children from the orphanage, were treated in Tokuda. In all eight children, besides malnutrition and osteoporosis, old, already healed broken bones, were established. Vesselina even has displacements of vertebrae, recalls Antonia. And continues on to say that after only 10 days in the hospital the little patients gained 2 kilograms each.

The doors are closed for new little ones

174 people take care of 165 children; sanctions are at hand

The Agency for Social Support stops the placement of children from the whole country in the orphanage in Pleven. Only in extreme cases babies from Pleven and Lovetch will be admitted.

This is the biggest orphanage in Bulgaria and, at the moment, 165 children are placed there.   [The healthiest, mobile children over the age of 3 years old have already been transferred to other institutions.]  The personnel are 174 people, but only 1/3 of them remain on each shift. All of the children should be no older than 3 years of age. However, for a long time, no one has taken measures for the older children to be moved to other specialized institutions.  Among them are children with disabilities who have not been requested for adoption or foster care.

External specialists in nutrition and intensive interaction shall be appointed in the orphanage. For each child a specific plan shall be developed, according to his/her own needs, explained Kalin Kamenov. They will train the personnel how to take care of the children. Experts will work with the children with disabilities in the orphanage, so that they receive individual care and medical help.

For the end of April, a competition for appointment of a new director of the orphanage has been planned. Four months ago, the long-standing director Irzhina Kostova was fired after the signal of CPA.  By this moment, the orphanage has been under a temporarily appointed director. Most probably there will be more disciplinary sanctions, stipulates Kamenov. We hope that the new management shall implement quality reorganization in the operation of the orphanage, he declared.

Yesterday, for the Standard, the health minister Dessislava Atanassova revealed that, since documents for donations and reports for food products are lacking, the investigators had sealed the storage premises.





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65 Responses to “Going public in Bulgaria”

  1. Deanna says:


    Praise God that this is being done!  The clean sweep! It will be interesting to see how the Bulgarian people respond to the news about Pleven.  

    God is at work.  We continue to pray. 

  2. Kat says:

    Praising God! Tears in my eyes! Continuing to pray!

  3. Heather McFarland says:

    Praise God!  Today, I can’t help but think of all the parents who placed their children there.  What were they told, what have they believed all these years came of their children?  What will they think when they read these articles? 

    Hoping that more children become available for adoption and that this story keeps future parents from giving up their children.  

  4. Missy says:

    I am amazed. I am in awe. That this could be done, where it was done is incredible! Doors and windows were flung open and sunlight and God’s grace is pouring in. I don’t know Bible verses by heart so someone help me and give me one that is full of thanksgiving and awe. 

  5. Judee Albert says:

    Praising God with you!  Katie has no idea how she is changing the world, but she is.  How fitting that this news comes as we celebrate the greatest miracle of all time – Christ’s victory over death!  This too will be a victory over death for many, many of His precious lambs.

  6. Holly F. says:

    PRAISE GOD!!  We are winning the war with HIM as our leader.

  7. Kerin says:

    Praise the Lord!


  8. Holly F. says:

    I’m sharing this far and wide.  As much as I can.  Joyful doesn’t even describe my feeling right now.  I’ve called it a holocaust for a long time now.  Thank God people in country are seeing it for what it is.  Praise God again and again.

  9. Mary Kathryn says:

    Don’t you think a documentary or movie should be done on this situation? That often wakes people up even more. Praise the Lord that this public outcry will be heard!

  10. Nothing is too big for our God to accomplish!! how wonderful that he used your sweet Katie to bring these children the attention they need!

  11. Cinderellamommy says:

    Praise GOD!

  12. Kim says:

    PRAISE GOD!!  This is a beautiful victory for His Kingdom! 

  13. Gretchen says:

    Tears and goosebumps and joy.  Finally they’ve been set free.

  14. Kara says:

    I am so glad the country is doing something and helping these babies! 

  15. Emily says:

    Wow, that’s fantastic news! I would have screamed out loud if my throat hadn’t hurt, so instead I’m screaming in my heart. Believe me, it’s so much louder. :) 

  16. Kim says:

    One of my favorite parts…

    “The mother is a homemaker and has entirely devoted herself to care for her children.”


  17. Susan says:

    Thank God for this news…I hope the good people of Bulgaria will respond with determination to never allow such atrocities in their country’s orphanages ever again, and that the innocents of Pleven will receive all they so desperately need, not just future protection and restoration of health,  but most of all, love from caregivers and eventually, families.

    As for what I find myself hoping becomes of those who allowed such horrors – well, I’d better not write it here and need to remind myself to leave judgment to God. I do allow myself to term my feelings “righteous indignation”, at least…

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you and Toni  – and Katie! –  have done to make this day happen.  Blessings to you all, and to all of the innocents of Pleven and to those who are working to bring justice and healing to them.

    Susan in Ky
    Cousin to 2 teens from EE  

  18. Dee says:

    Grateful they are not only trying to rectify the situation but doing it publicly! Let everyone see and be ashamed! Smile big, Katie!!! You’re a superstar!

    Praying for all the children to get the help they need, the ones with families to be brought home swiftly, others to find families, and those left behind or come in their place to receive the care they DESERVE!! Bless these children and their strength!!

  19. Janine says:

    Thanks be to God.


  20. sarah says:

    Praise the Lord!

  21. Kathy says:

    Wonderful News! Praising our Heavenly Father. Thanks to you and your family for working tirelessly for these orphans.

  22. Valerie says:

    Tears.  Praise, praise, praise God!

  23. Julie says:

    Nothing is better, nothing can be higher, nothing can compare to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! Thank you to all those involved in bringing this to the attention of the Bulgarian Authorities so that God’s work could be done! 

  24. Alice says:

    You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.–Gen 50:20

    Praising Him with you!  

  25. StacyA says:

    Susanna, just look at what God has done!!!! VERITY, TRUTH! I just don’t have words.  PRAISE GOD! PRAISE GOD!PRAISE GOD!

  26. brenda says:

    Wow! wow. Wow. So amazing. Thank God action is being taken!!!

  27. Mary Kathryn says:

    Susanna, I did a blog post today on Katie, with a link to this blog post. I hope you don’t mind. I was hesitant to post pictures of YOUR child, and if for any reason, you’d prefer for me to take the post down, please tell me. But I want to raise awareness of the issues at Pleven, and of the miracles that can occur, and since it’s now gone into the press, I felt it was safe. I hope that’s okay. Here’s the link to my post: http://mkatchris.blogspot.com/2012/04/pleven.html

  28. It’s finally happening! Praise the Lord!!! Thank you so much for your relentless pursuit to bring this issue to light!

  29. Leah says:

    Praise the Lord!

  30. sabrina says:

    Praising God that Pleven is no longer one of the dark, secret places! His Light has been shined in…praise God!

  31. Amy says:

    So thankful that the truth is being told in Bulgaria!  God had a big mission for Katie and your family.  It just goes to show what one family can do to make a difference in the world when God is behind them.  My heart hurts for all the children who have suffered in Pleven and I am praying that God brings great restoration for all of them.

  32. I had to smile as I saw Katie’s smiling new picture in the newpaper!  She has PROVEN that her tiny size was because of her gross neglect and malnutrition.  Wake up and see, Bulgaria.  These children ARE valuable and are used by the Almighty God!  Open your eyes, look around and start asking questions, Bulgaria.  Become outraged and called to action…  these are your children, Bulgaria! 

    I also wanted to say, I have no doubt that God has timed this around Easter Sunday.  Ooooo chill bumps as I think about it.  Praising Jesus!   

  33. Ann says:

    This is amazing!!!!!!!!! We’ve been praying for a breakthrough with this situation.
    Every child has a destiny-regardless of their circumstances or disability and they deserve to live!!!!!!!!!! 
    Thank you Jesus!!!!!

  34. Mary N says:

    I’ve lurked about since October but this is my first comment, HOLY COW!!!!! Anyone who does not believe in the power of prayer needs to read this, such amazing mountains have been moved through the power of prayer, David has slayed Goliath!

  35. Vicki Nees says:

    My student group would like to raise money for the fund.  Do you know of any, for the lack of a better word, publicity type items?  I want to be able to tell the story appropriatley.
    thank you!

  36. Megan says:

    No one deserves to be treated like the children there.  So glad to see the conditions are now public knowledge and that ACTION is occurring!

  37. Vicki says:

    Hooray! Praise God!!

  38. Abigail says:

    Hi! I’ve been following your blog for a while now.
    174 PEOPLE??? Even if only 1/3 are on for each shift, that’s a ratio of less than 3/1. I often work at a much higher ratio than that in a daycare…WHAT on EARTH were they doing? Sitting around on their hands??? What’s more, how could 174 people look at the suffering around them and not be moved??? I know, I know, you all know this already…but I guess it’s the numbers that shock me. Are they accurate? I thought the place was grossly under-staffed…that’s so ridiculous that with THAT MANY people nothing got done!!

  39. Abigail says:

    And yes, I am very glad that something is being done now. Praise the Lord!

  40. Renee (Lucy's Mommy) says:

    I want to reach through the computer and give you a ‘high five’!  :)  What an amazing way to change the world, Susanna.  I know you will humbly say that this was not all you, but…you started this process in motion.  I can just imagine God placing his hand on your shoulder and exclaiming, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.    

  41. Lisa says:

    You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many. – Genesis 50:20
    I love that Katie’s middle name is hope as God is using her and her story to change the lives of many.  Thank you for your boldness in His name on behalf of these little ones!  Will certainly keep praying for change and for families to step forward.

  42. C Smith says:

    How incredible! When you first decided to adopt, I’m sure you had no idea it would lead to the salvation of so many. What an awesome chain of events!

  43. Lori says:

    This is such AWESOME news, Susanna! Praise God! And I just LOVE that photo of sweet Katie in her Easter finery-she truly has a world of hope now–you can see the life and love and power of God in her eyes!
     I wish I could personally meet not only your wonderful family but also that young lady official that went to the orphanage and left there crying. I want to say to HER “There is much work to be done, dear lady! Hold these people accountable for the conditions in these orphanages and let these precious children have the love and care that they so deserve! Let them be adopted because they ARE worthy!”

  44. Sasha says:

    Praise the Lord! Praying everyday for the little ones in Pleven, let this clean sweep happen quickly!

  45. Thomas R Boroughs says:

    Our Monday night men’s group was studying from the book of Esther tonight.  We see in Est. 2:7 that Mordecai took his cousin “Hadassah, that is, Esther, “for she had neither father nor mother”, Mordecai took her for his own daughter”.  Because of what he did, Esther answered the challenge in Esther 4:13-14 …”Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.  For if thou holdest thy peace at this time, comfort and deliverance shall appear to the Jews out of another place, but thou and thy father’s house shall perish: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time.”

     Our Lord used Mordecai and Esther to save the Jews in Persia and the line of David, our Saviour would come thru!  The Lord is able to do far above what we could imagine!!!  The Lord blesses us with the opportunity to be the servant to carry out his plan!  The Lord gets all the GLORY!!!

    What a wonderful Saviour! 

  46. Katie says:

    Praise Him!  There are no other words that can express my feelings right now… just, thanks be to God!

  47. Beck Gambill says:

    Praising with you! What a faithful God we serve! Praying that God will even now work on behalf of little ones hidden away in Serbia. I know they’re there and needing love. The road to getting to them has been more challenging than I had hoped but I’m trusting what God has done for the little children in Pleven he will do for the unnamed ones of Serbia!

  48. Rita from Spain says:

    God is working thru you and Katie to save these kids…I could not help smiling ear to ear seeing lil Katies smile in the Paper..she is a star…
    Praise God for all that is happening….and thank you for being his tool to do it…Hugs..
    Thank you and please continue ot update us : )))

  49. stephanie says:

    Susanna!!!II’m speechless. Look what God has done through YOU!!!! i keep showing my family Katie’s pic as you update them and I have to keep reminding my husband who she is because she has changed so much. I laugh every time because I know what he is going to say. “Now who is this little Sweetie?” And I say, “It’s Katie from Bulgaria” and then he says, ‘Oh my goodness look at her” EVERY TIME!! LOL
    Susanna thank you for listening to God. I know you give Him all the glory and rightfully so, but if you had not said YES, all this would not be happening. You listened even when what He was asking you to do was scary or didn’t make sense, and you trusted Him every step of the way. You were His instrument in this magnificent plan of His, and you let Him work through you, and because of that it all came together perfectly.
    Seriously wish I could hug you! And Sweet Katie Bird. 

  50. Jody Johnson says:

    I am a  RR mom, too. I’m going to get Oksana M. You and I at neighbors in the scheme of things- I live in Schwenksville, PA. 

    Your faithfulness to God is beautiful and you have encouraged me to pursue the dream I have to spread the word about these orphans. That even one more could come home because of Oksana, that would be worth it.  

    Thank you for sharing. I’ll be following along. I love what your husband said about God’s reputation. :)    

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